PHOTO GALLERY: Early pilots get a head start on 2022 Natchez Balloon Festival

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2022

NATCHEZ — The early bird gets the worm, so the saying goes.

Three Missouri hot air balloon pilots who arrived in Natchez for the upcoming Natchez Balloon Festival are getting their first flights in ahead of the big event.

At least one balloonist, Kurt Vitense, took to the skies on Monday evening. Gary Whitby and Jason Gaines in his new balloon called “Sugar Momma” took off from Morgantown Elementary School on Tuesday morning and flew over the Mississippi River and landed between Vidalia and Ferriday on the levee road near Old River.

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Vitense later entertained residents at the Adams County Nursing Center with a balloon tether in the grassy field next to the nursing home where the residents could watch.

Keep eyes on the skies, especially in the early morning and mid-afternoon, for a chance to see balloons fly this week and during the 37th annual Natchez Balloon Festival on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Bands will entertain on the grounds of Rosalie on Friday and Saturday only and Balloon flights are scheduled throughout the weekend around 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. as weather permits.

Tickets and merchandise are on sale now at and will also be sold at the Historic Natchez Foundation and the festival site.